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Encyclopedia > Succulent

Succulent plants, or succulents, are plants that store water in their enlarged fleshy leaves, stems, or roots. The enlargement is usually due to the greater amount of the parenchyma tissue.

Sempervivum heuffelii, type from Romania, in cultivation, a member of the Crassulaceae, storing water in its thick leaves. Photo: Manuel Werner, Germany

Although all plants store water, succulent plants are especially adapted to store water for longer periods. This allows them to survive in arid environments, where they receive little competition from other plants and less herbivory. During the day, their habitat is rather hot. However, when the habitat is cool at night, the succulents can respire. In the morning, often dewfall helps the plants to survive. Some succulents try to take up as much moisture from the dew as possible by having large surface area by long hair.

Many succulents have a waxy coating on their stems and leaves, helping them to retain moisture. Having a large internal volume for storage but minimum surface area is also important to prevent drying up. CAM photosynthesis is also a common feature found in many succulents for water conservation.

Succulence is a feature due to convergent evolution and is not necessarily an indication of genetic relationship. There are succulents in many unrelated families (more or less 50, some sources note only 28). However, for some families, most members are succulent; for example the Cactaceae, Agavaceae, Aizoaceae, and Crassulaceae.

The table below shows the number of succulent species found in some families:

Family Succulent # Modified parts Distribution
Agavaceae 300 Leaf North and Central America
Cactaceae 1600 Stem The Americas
Crassulaceae 1300 Leaf Worldwide
Aizoaceae 2000 Leaf Southern Africa
Apocynaceae 500 Stem Africa, Arabia, India
Euphorbiaceae 500 Stem and/or leaf Africa, Madagascar, India
Asphodelaceae 500 Leaf Africa, Madagascar
Portulacaceae  ? Leaf and stem The Americas

External links

  • http://www.sukkulenten.ch (in German)
  • http://www.lapshin.org/succulent/ (English/Russian)

  Results from FactBites:
Succulent Plant Site - Information on the cultivation of succulents (0 words)
Succulents are rewarding in cultivation for both the novice grower and the hard core enthusiast.
Succulents have the reputation of being easy to grow, for instance Cotyledon Orbiculata is known as the "kanniedood" in Afrikaans, when translated to English it means "cannot die".
Succulents have an amazing variety of flowers from the intricate stapeliad flowers to the splendour of the mesemb.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Succulent Bonsai—Capturing the Spirit of the Desert (1523 words)
Succulents also have unique morphological features that make them appealing to bonsai artists, namely their fleshy leaves, swollen trunks, and thickened bases—adaptations that enable the plants to store excess water for use during dry periods.
This 20-year-old 22-inch-high succulent was grown from seed in a nursery in a 10-gallon tub.
Succulents may be staged as individual bonsai, forests, companion plants, or in landscape trays.
  More results at FactBites »



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